OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this report is to describe the methodology and results of a recent national assessment of long-term graduate and short-term continuing education needs of public health and health care professionals who serve or are administratively responsible for the U.S. maternal and child health population and also to offer recommendations for future training initiatives. METHODS: The target of this needs assessment was all directors of state MCH, CSHCN and Medicaid agencies, as well as a 20% random sample of local public health departments. A 7-page needs assessment form was used to assess the importance of and need for supporting graduate and continuing education training in specific skill and content areas. The needs assessment also addressed barriers to pursuing graduate and continuing education. Respondents (n = 274) were asked to indicate the capacity of their agency for providing continuing education as well as their preferred modalities for training. RESULTS: Regardless of agency type, i.e., state MCH, CSHCN, Medicaid or local health department, having employees with a graduate education in MCH was perceived to be of benefit by more than 70% of the respondents. Leadership, systems development, management, administration, analytic, policy and advocacy skills, as well as genetics, dentistry, nutrition and nursing, were all identified as critical unmet needs areas for professionals with graduate training. Education costs, loss of income, and time constraints were the identified barriers to graduate education. More than 90% of respondents from each agency viewed continuing education as a benefit for their staff, although the respondents indicated that their agencies have limited capacity to either provide such training or to assess their staffs need for continuing education. Program managers and staff were perceived in greatest need of continuing education and core public health skills, leadership, and administration were among the most frequently listed topics to receive continuing education training support dollars. Time away from work, lack of staff to cover functions, and cost were the top barriers to receiving continuing education. While attending on-site, in-state, small conferences was the continuing education modality of first preference, there was also considerable interest expressed in web-based training. CONCLUSIONS: Six recommendations were developed on the basis of the findings and address the following areas: the ongoing need for continued support of both graduate and continuing education efforts; the development of a national MCH training policy analysis center; the incorporation of routine assessments of training needs by states as part of their annual needs assessments; the promotion of alternative modalities for training, i.e., web-based; and, the sponsorship of academic/practice partnerships for cross-training.